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Ford GT: The Skunkworks Project Signalling A New Direction For ?One Ford? Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | May, 15 2015 | 1 Comment

There are more than 10 million lines of code sitting behind the complex electronics underpinning the performance and features of the new Ford GT.

This is four million more, Ford engineers told us this week in Detroit, than in Boeing’s Dreamliner passenger jet.

Simply beautiful to behold, and retro, but not, the GT is still more than a year away from release - timed to the 50 year anniversary of the legendary Ford GT40’s success at Le Mans in 1966.

But neither the lines of code nor the 447kW (600hp) performance from the 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 nestled within its seductive F1-inspired fuselage is at the nub of the story behind the GT.

No, the GT, for all that its performance capability suggests, is here to tell a different story: one about ‘lightweighting’, and aluminium and carbon-fibre composites, and a company intent on applying the “learnings” from this niche project across its future product range.

In this, the GT is both an automotive masterpiece and a test-bed of research.

“When we work on a technology, we try to democratise it, and take it to other vehicles across the Ford range,” Matt Zaluzec, Technical Leader for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Research, said.

And this is the story Ford wants to get out. It flew us all the way to its capital and spiritual heart, Dearborn in Detroit, to lift the veil on what sits below the GT.

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While there, we were introduced to - and drove - that car’s polar opposite; Ford’s new all-aluminium bodied F-Truck.

Two cars, poles apart in everything except the badge and a ‘One Ford’ mantra, but each sharing a common imperative.

According to Ford global boss Mark Fields, the new One Ford direction is “about pushing limits and boundaries” with an aim to “produce cars and trucks that are as easy on the planet as possible”.

And this is at the heart of the GT project.

The GT was a chimera, a project whispered behind cupped hands that only few within Ford knew about.

Down a basement stairwell in a little used storeroom, Ford assembled a small, nimble team of its brightest designers and performance engineers and tasked them with the barely possible.

Sworn to secrecy, the assignment was to get the car from hand-drawn sketches, to clay models, to show-car concept within 14 months.

And, from this skunkworks project has emerged the most technologically-advanced road car the Ford Motor Company has ever produced.

Impossibly gorgeous in the metal, it marries lines that echo the first GT40 - you will see it in the rapier nose, hipped haunches, jet-fighter tail-lights and squared-off rear - with racing aerodynamics.

The result is an unexpected masterpiece - “unexpected”, at least, on this side of the Atlantic - of alloy and carbon fibre innovation.

When it lands, and it will only ever be in left-hand-drive configuration, US reports suggest it will cost more than US$400,000 for the privileged few lucky enough to slide one into the garage.

Jamal Hameedi, Chief Engineer at Ford Performance, told TMR, “The innovations we find in a project like the GT can be directed into full product development.”

“There are over 3000 unique sensors, six communication area networks and 28 microprocessors generating more than 300MB of data per second," he said.

"[The GT] is filled with technologies that make drivers better, and safer; it will do things even expert drivers can’t do.”

While it can accommodate tall drivers, the cabin is tight with an F1 style hip-point for driver and passenger.

“The key to (the design of) the super-low roof is a fixed driver’s seat,” Moray Callum, Ford Vice-President of Design, said.

This single feature removed compromises and complexities to the car’s aerodynamics and safety systems, and removed the additional weight of a seat mechanism, needed to allow a sliding seat.

“In some ways, it is easier to design a car like this than a Fiesta,” Hameedi said.

But it is not just materials and lightweighting innovations that are explored with the GT, it sits at the leading edge of Ford’s electronics and driver aids technologies.

So too sits Ford’s ongoing commitment to its high-output small capacity turbo-driven EcoBoost engine technologies.

Ford has now sold more than five million EcoBoost engines worldwide.

In the GT, there are more than one million lines of code sitting behind the management, output and efficiency systems of the 3.5 litre EcoBoost powerhouse nestled into its fuselage.

While Ford is still speaking in rounded terms on the outputs and expected performance figures for the GT, its commitment is to supercar track-ready performance.

With another 12 months of development before the GT’s global launch, and with the legendary GT40 as its spiritual progenitor, we might expect no less than a full-blown racecar.

But forget technologies and performance numbers for a moment; having run a hand along its stunning bodywork, and gazed longingly into its cockpit, let me tell you that supercars rarely come prettier nor more desirable than this astonishing Ford GT.

And if it is, as CEO Mark Fields said, part of that One Ford imperative of “pushing limits and boundaries”, the GT surely succeeds.

We have another year to wait…

Disclosure: Tim O’Brien attended ‘The GT Innovations Forum’ in Dearborn Detroit as a guest of Ford Australia.

MORE: New Ford GT Revealed
MORE: New Ford GT Has A Price, And A Production Limit
MORE: How The Ford GT Was Kept Secret

 
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